External review adds tool to State Board improvement efforts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                     FOR INFORMATION, CALL
May 18, 2000                                                       (217) 782-4648 or (312) 814-3490

Matteson – Building better schools for Illinois will depend not only on improvements in the classrooms and in local school districts, but will also require improvements at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee outlined some of his external and internal improvement goals at the State Board of Education meeting today in Matteson.  His comments came during the presentation of the report and recommendations of Achieve, Inc., which ISBE commissioned to conduct a review of the Illinois Learning Standards and other priority areas targeted by the Board for improvement. 

Achieve was created by the nation’s governors and business leaders to follow up on commitments made at the 1996 National Education Summit.  Achieve has been used by other states, including Indiana and Ohio, seeking an independent, external perspective on their school improvement agendas and recommendations for strengthening those efforts.

 “We ask local schools to conduct external reviews to seek better ways to meet their school improvement objectives,” said McGee.  The State Board “must be willing to do the same thing.”  He outlined other ISBE plans for internal and external improvements.

“To reach these goals, we are raising the stakes on a system of continuous improvement in which we will hold ourselves – that’s each and every employee – to a higher standard,” said McGee.  “Today we will embark on a 90-day improvement plan that will further change our organization into a cohesive, responsive and efficient agency focused on leading and supporting school improvement.”

The report by Achieve commended the state’s commitment to having all students meet the Illinois Learning Standards as the foundation of all local and state school improvements.  The report found the Standards a “substantial improvement” over past educational goals but recommended several ways to improve the Standards and state tests to measure students’ progress in meeting them.

Teacher preparation in Illinois was another area highlighted in the report.  Achieve found “Illinois has moved further than most states in beginning to bring teacher preparation and professional development policy in line with the increased demands of standards-based education.”  The report commended Illinois on its progress in strengthening the content knowledge required of new teachers and improving the coordination between elementary and secondary education and higher education.  The report also gave Illinois high marks for adopting “sensible and flexible” recertification requirements that allow credit for participation in teacher networks and other noncourse-based professional activities.

McGee said ISBE would move ahead on Achieve’s recommendations that Illinois establish an induction system for new teachers and create a comprehensive strategy for professional development for all teachers, principals and superintendents based on meeting the Illinois Learning Standards.

However, the Board has asked Achieve to provide additional information and analysis in some areas, including an assessment of ISBE’s capacity to foster standards-led reform statewide.

“The Illinois Business Roundtable is encouraged by the tenor, scope and recommendations of the Achieve Report.  It is in fact, the objective, external benchmark that Illinois needs to accelerate the improvement in the quality of our schools and our students' learning to make Illinois second to none” said Jeff Mays, president of the Illinois Business Roundtable. “Achieve’s findings provide Illinois with another valuable tool for improvement.  It also raises the level of urgency with which this state must develop ‘One Vision and One Voice’ to meet the challenges facing our children and to build the highest caliber education system in the country.”

McGee also outlined a plan for a series of statewide “schoolhouse meetings” to bring together state education leaders, local school officials, teachers, parents and community leaders throughout the state, as well as agencywide employee meetings and an employee summit for later this summer.

An outline of specific Achieve recommendations and the status of related ISBE actions is available via fax by calling 217/782-4648.

Summary of Achieve Recommendations and ISBE Status on Each May 18, 2000